Match Report / Union match reports

Match report: Atlanta United FC 2-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Philadelphia Union took a 3-game win streak to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia to face Atlanta United in a battle between the sole undefeated MLS team in the Union and the undefeated-at-home (and dominant at Mercedes-Benz Stadium) Five Stripes.

Both the Union’s win streak and Atlanta’s home domination came to an end with a 2-2 draw, though the Union do return home as the only undefeated MLS team. The game was a tale of two halves, as the first half ended scoreless while the goals all arrived in the second half.

Having led 2-0 in the 72nd minute, Atlanta likely feels as though it dropped two points, while the Union will feel hard done by a potential game-winning goal chalked off for the slightest offside margin. 

The Union’s diamond formation

The Union returned to its favored 4-4-2 diamond formation to start the game. There were some personnel changes from last weekend’s road victory over Nashville, as Andre Blake returned to the lineup. Blake sat out the Nashville match to ensure a full recovery from the concussion symptoms he faced since leaving the second half of the home win over Minnesota on March 30.

The back line returned to a two-centerback defense, featuring Damion Lowe and Jakob Glesnes, with Kai Wagner and Nathan Harriel slotting into the left and right wingback roles respectively. The Union returned to its diamond midfield, with José Martínez as the sole DM, Jack McGlynn and Alejandro Bedoya on the left and right sides of the diamond, and Dániel Gazdag as the 10 at the tip of the diamond. Quinn Sullivan once again moved from the right attacking midfield role he started the season at to the frontline as a partner to Julian Carranza.  

A probing first half

Both sides started the game probing the other side for weaknesses, but neither team was found wanting. The Union were willing to sit back and absorb pressure, allowing Atlanta to dominate time of possession. The Union’s centerbacks patrolled the 18-yard box, regularly clearing crosses and stymieing attacks.

The Union’s best attacking sequence of the half saw sustained pressure on the Atlanta goal in the 31st minute, forcing Brad Guzan to save a Bedoya header. At the other end of the field, the 44th minute saw Blake make a low save on an Almada shot from inside the 18-yard box, but Blake stayed down and was replaced by Oliver Semmle in first-half injury time.

The first half ended with what seemed like more yellow cards than attacking chances. 

Second-half floodgates

The second half started with good attacking sequences from both teams, though it was Atlanta that kept the pressure on as the half progressed. The 55th minute saw Atlanta take the lead on a Daniel Rios header from a Thiago Almada cross to the center of the six-yard box. Almada settled into the game and Atlanta continued to attack, and in the 63rd minute doubled its lead when Caleb Wiley took a strike from 30-plus yards and snuck it between the post and an outstretched Semmle.

Atlanta continued pressing and it seemed as if the game was heading towards a first Union defeat.

But the Union showed their Philly grit and clawed back into the game. Jim Curtin made a second-half tactical substitution for the second week in a row, replacing Martínez (who had a yellow card) in the 65th minute with Mikael Uhre.

Uhre moved up top, Sullivan dropped back to the right of the diamond, and Bedoya took Martínez’s spot at the base of the diamond. 

A 73rd-minute goal by Uhre cut the lead in half, as Atlanta gifted the Union a goal when Uhre intercepted a weak cross-field pass and drove in unopposed on Guzan, rifling it past the Atlanta keeper into the top left of the net. A few minutes later, Sullivan’s play on the right side of the field led to a long throw-in by Harriel. This was headed by an Atlanta defender to the top of the 6-yard box, but onto Wagner’s right foot. The left-back made no mistake with his weaker foot as he put the ball into the back of the net, leveling the score at two in the 77th minute.

Although the Union salvaged a point after being down two-nil, they’ll perhaps feel as if they deserved all three, as what looked like an onside goal by Sullivan in the 79th minute was ruled offside. Both sides continued pressing for all three points, and the woodwork saved the Union from defeat in the 87th minute.

After six minutes of injury time was added, the game was whistled to an end as the Union had possession and in attacking form right at the corner of the 18-yard box. The Union surrounded the referee to complain, but the only result was a final card of the night to McGlynn.

Three Points

Undefeated – The Union remain the only MLS side not to have lost, earning 13 points in seven games (three wins and four draws). 

Tactics – Curtin once again made a tactical change. This time it was not a formation change, but rather replacing Martínez with Uhre for some added offense. The change worked, leading to the first Union goal.

VAR? – What is the purpose of VAR if not to review the potentially game-winning third goal by the Union? Referee Jon Freemon should have at least gone to the monitors to decide for himself.


Philadelphia Union (4-4-2)
Andre Blake (Oliver Semmle 45′ +2′), Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jakob Glesnes, Nathan Harriel, José Martínez (Mikael Uhre 65′), Jack McGlynn, Alejandro Bedoya, Dániel Gazdag, Julian Carranza, Quinn Sullivan

Unused Subs: Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Jeremy Rafanello, Jesus Bueno, Chris Donovan, Tai Baribo, Markus Anderson 

Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Brad Guzan, Brooks Lennon, Noah Cobb, Luis Abram, Caleb Wiley, Tristan Muyumba, Bartosz Slisz, Saba Lobzhanidze, Thiago Almada, Tyler Wolff (Edwin Mosquera 60′), Daniel Rios (Nicolas Firmino 60′)

Unused subs: Josh Cohen, Ronald Hernandez, Luke Brennan, Dax McCarty, Efrain Morales, Ajani Fortune, Derrick Etienne

Referee – Jon Freemon 

Scoring Summary

ATL – Rios (55′)

ATL – Wiley (63′)

PHL – Uhre (73′)

PHL – Wagner (77′)

Discipline Summary

PHI – Carranza (21′)

ATL – Almada (25′)

PHI – Martínez (35′)

PHI – Gazdag (35′)

PHI – Wagner (75′)

ATL – Muyumba (84′)

PHL – McGlynn (90 +5′)



  1. My prediction was right on point! Anyway, here’s some positives and negatives
    Still unbeaten
    3rd in the east and game behind everyone else
    Unbeaten and 3rd in east with 5 away games, 2 home games
    Great fight back and deserved win with the referee decisions.
    Poor performance until they conceded 2, how about actually starting strong?
    Blake is getting injured every few matches, maybe he needs a break?
    Martinez acted like 2021/22 Martinez in that match. Could have easily gotten a red

    In the end, it was a decent performance against a team that had all wins at home beforehand. Could we have won? Yeah. But we are still unbeaten.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Martinez SHOULD have seen red when he petulantly threw the ball away. My guess is that he picks up his fifth yellow against RSL and gets his first suspension of the season for the game in DC.

      • Yeah, David Martinez got a red for that exact reason against Colorado. Poor calls for both sides from the ref

  2. Nice report. Here are my observations from the telecast of the Union v. Atlanta United:
    1) Playing on artificial turf rather than natural grass is very different, and it was truly an adventure for the Union against Atlanta United. In chronological order:
    a. It looked as though Andre Blake got “turf toe” on a goal kick;
    b. Semmle got caught flat-footed by a long-distance strike and the resulting bounce off the turf [Note: In the past, we have seen Andre Blake save shots like that routinely.];
    c. Kai Wagner used his right foot as a pitching wedge to park the tying goal into the upper left corner of the net—it’s tough to get that spin on grass.
    2) It looked to me that the Union were jobbed again by MLS’ cheapness in not having proper VAR technology ala the Premier League. I suspect that I was not the only Union supporter to flash back to the Cincinnati playoff game last year when the Union tying goal was ruled offsides. On Uhre’s strike that put the Union up, he looked to be even with the last defender, but the AR’s call was not “palpably wrong” or whatever the adjectival description is for blowing a call badly. That said, I cannot be too harsh on her because:
    3) Unless there are some different “ground rules” at Atlanta, Harriel’s throw-in leading to the Wagner tying goal was clearly a foul throw because his right foot had crossed the sideline. He repeated that same throw-in with no call later in the game.
    4) Mikel Uhre’s goal was a confident thing of beauty, and was just the tonic that the Union needed; his misguided pass later on the break was not.
    5) As draws go, this was a good one—we should be happy with the point and remaining undefeated.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Appreciate the perspective on turf. I have zero real experience that doesn’t involve 10 yr olds.
      Uhre was 100% ONSIDE.

    • Nate’s throw in was good (the sideline official was right next to him) – as long as part of your foot is on the line it is a good throw. If his heel had not been on the line then it would have been a foul throw.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Is anyone else on board with me that this team has a chance to be REALLY GOOD? Like 2022 good. It’s still basically the same core of the team with a great leap by McGlynn and Sullivan to help cover for Flach and Uhre’s injuries and Bedoya’s aging.
    Yes, they lost at Pachuca but that is against a team that was in better condition, at altitude, and probably better than any MLS team. Other than that and the Austin game (where they were still recovering from altitude) and Kansas City (where there was heavy squad rotation), they have really been clicking. With 5 road games under their belt, 2-0-3 is a fine record.
    Regarding the use of VAR, the issue is that MLS doesn’t use the technology that other leagues use and it therefore becomes difficult to rule that the AR got any close plays clearly wrong.
    And one small correction, McGlynn’s yellow was not for a confrontation with the ref, it was for kicking the ball away after it was clearly out of bounds to slow an Atlanta throw-in about a minute earlier.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Kind of agree with the 2022 reference Andy. They are just collecting points and points on the road, at an excellent pace. They are scoring again and while the defense is not 2022, it’s been better… barring the Pachuca game of course. I am still so worried about Carranza and the contract situation – does he sign, does he get transferred. It’s unlike Tanner to go get players without first losing players, so I don’t see them proactively getting an expensive first team player or two, without someone leaving. I mean hell – they don’t really go get first team players at all… so with all that, where they sit come the summer, and what happens is going to be what defines this season.

    • Not only am I on board with you, I actually expected this team to be this good. I didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be, and they are proving that correct. All the prognosticators slept on us.

    • No because Carranza is gone in the summer.

      • Injuries may temper those lofty expectations. I also fear the wear of a long season may give us a slump at the final stretch. That’s the MO of Philly teams since the U did it. Cautiously optimistic we’ll contend this season

  4. I hope it is clear and obvious to Curtin that Sullivan is an 8, needs to be an 8 and should play as the right 8 for 90 minutes every game going forward. He is just at another level this year and impacts the game immediately once he moves there.

    His last game where he started as an 8 was against Minnesota where he made that side of their defense look invisible, so please lets get back to that.

    If Curtin doesn’t like our striker options after Carranza, then that is on Tanner to fix in the summer and Curtin needs to stop taking Sullivan out of his best position.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I don’t think it’s so much that Curtin doesn’t like the striker options after Carranza as much as it is that Uhre is not 100% and is not up to going even 60 minutes (he didn’t even dress for the Nashville game).
      There is no way Tanner is going to be getting strikers of the quality you are thinking about just because his starter is injured for a couple of games. No MLS GM is going to be able to do that.

  5. Where do they find these announcers? Can somebody please explain to me what is meant by “the Union are 5 goals above the Mendoza line”? This is akin to saying the temperature is 5 degrees above a size 3. The Mendoza line means that a batter hit .200 for those who aren’t baseball fans.

    A great show of grit by the U! Luckily for everyone I had to turn off the TV for dinner down 2-0. Came back to a nice surprise in the 88th minute.

    • A bit embarrassing when main announcer is talking about Jim and “over to you, Mo” and Edu is like “uh, dude, I know this org, players and coach”

  6. John P. O'Donnell says:

    Be nice if Uhre keeps this form the rest of the season. Two beautiful goals even though one didn’t count.

  7. Happy to see my superstition about not taking advantage of favorable results around the league was wrong, though it took a give away to seemingly jump start things. Was also happy on that play that my dread seeing uhre with acres of time and space was also misguided. Hope that clinical finish means he’s finally turning a corner (we’ll just ignore pushing the ball out of bounds on a 5 v 2 break)

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Considering Curtain said he’s been “playing with plantar fasciitis” for awhile, likely due to too many matches in too short a time, I think the break to heal was a really good idea. PF is inflammation in the foot. Extremely painful. Can’t imagine trying to play on it.

  8. Piss off playing a Sunday game at 2:30.
    There all I have to offer on a game there was zero chance of watching.
    PissO offO.

  9. Never mind this particular match. I came here to point out one thing: 7 matches in, the Union are undefeated, tied for 5th in the league table on points, and 3rd on points per game. Despite having played 2 rounds of CCC, and having had 5 of our 7 matches thus far on the road.

    The rest of the league is in trouble.

  10. I know some people are saying this team could be really good and we are undefeated but I’m pretty much ready to downgrade this team from good to scrappy.

  11. We got robbed.
    Where do they find these refs?
    VAR is needed.
    Calling the match while the Union had the ball in the box was inexcusable.

    The team played great in the second half. We’re still in pretty good shape going forward, hope Andre is not too badly injured .

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      That final whistle on the GODDAMN CUTBACK is some next level dickery. Infuriating.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      You mean they were robbed by the same ref that gave them a huge break by not showing Martinez a second yellow like he should have and made them play a player down the whole second half? The Union should have shown more urgency in that attack knowing time was running out.

      • This is where I stand on it too. I feel like we got lucky with no send off. At the price of a win we surely wouldn’t have been in position to have if we did? To walk away with a point was fair.

  12. Deez Nuggs says:

    As far as I’m concerned the Union won that game. Getting jacked by the refs doesn’t undo the effort and putting the ball in the net. Like others, I will second the notion that playing Quinn as second striker is less effective than as a right shuttle. But I think that was forced by trying to limit Uhre’s minutes. And wouldn’t you know! Uhre was sharp and ready when he’s not playing on an injury. Hopefully we can keep everyone healthy because this team’s good.

  13. The waived third goal may have been a makeup for the throw-in that gave us a goal. I went through frames, and at least at one look, it seemed the lead foot fully crossed the line. Whether legal or not, the offsides call was also close, so maybe that was splitting the difference.
    . . .
    We should be better prepared for astroturf. I’ve raised that for a long time as have others.
    . . .
    Overall, we’re performing well, especially with so many road and/ or west matches.

    • Soccer Mom says:

      It’s not a foul throw as long as part of the foot stays on the line.
      From FA:
      1. Procedure
      At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must:
      stand facing the field of play
      have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
      throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play

    • Open Rules Question.

      Many moons ago when I played, the throw-in rule required that both feet must be entirely behind the line because the line is within the field of play, hence ‘throw-in’)

      I’m aware that having the foot on any part of the line is now kosher. Soccer Mom and Soccer Dad aptly raised that change. .I noted that some years ago.

      However, can a player drag his foot from the line fully onto the pitch so long as he or she started from the line or behind and still be kosher? That’s what I believe I saw in frame by frame. That’s what I don’t know for certain.

      For anyone, Soccer Mom or.Soccar Dad or anyone else.who knows and answers, thanks for clarifying.

  14. Soccer Dad says:

    Everyone needs to learn the rules of throw ins before saying it was a bad throw. The sideline official was standing right next to Harriel when he threw the ball in. Part of each foot needs to be on the line or touching. The Union would not reply the clip over and over again on social media if it was a foul throw.

    Still want to see proof Uhre was off. Every angle on Apple had him onside.

    1. Procedure
    At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must:
    stand facing the field of play
    have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline
    throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The issue isn’t proof that he was offsides, he needs to be proven onside given that the AR called it offsides. Even if we’re 99% sure that he was onsides, the technology that MLS currently uses is unlikely to show 100% that he was onsides unless it wasn’t even close (like another defender 2 yards behind the play who just wasn’t seen the first time). Otherwise it’s no longer a clear and obvious error by the AR.

      • Soccer Dad says:

        I personally would be happy to see proof either way. It would be even better for the MLS to actually invest in the technology that’s available.

        The views I saw show him onside and again the announcers like to say we don’t have all the views. We know after playoffs last year that it’s a lie.

      • Vince Devine says:

        The real mistake was raising the flag at all. All AR’s are instructed to keep the flag down, let the play happen, then let VAR look at it. VAR will then need to draw the lines and make the call. By raising the flag, VAR gets put into the “clear and obvious” category. Clear and Obvious isn’t in play if they follow their protocols.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I think you have the protocol slightly wrong, Vince. The AR’s are instructed to keep the flag down if it’s close, but then when the play ends, either in a goal or a fizzled out attack, they should raise the flag if they feel the play was offsides. Then VAR checks to see if they are obviously wrong.
        The idea is that the AR makes the call in their mind, but if their call is offsides, play has a chance to continue in case they are wrong and a goal is scored. The method you outline would mean that almost all close calls are awarded as goals, given the technology currently in place. The actual idea is that the AR’s call will stand unless obviously wrong.

    • I am aware of the throw-in rule. It is very close and it is possible that the back of Harriel’s heel is on the line, but the AR had turned away from the play, so she would not have known. This is not the first time that I have seen a foul throw not called. Earlier this year one of the Union’s opponents was basically throwing the ball in one-handed–no call. I have seen both of these infractions called routinely in youth leagues, but not in MLS.

  15. Gruncle Bob says:

    What happened to keeping the offside flag down unless the call was obvious? For years we have watched obviously offside strikers running headlong at goalkeepers in dangerous situations with no flag and no whistle, or a really really late whistle. When we have a situation where no flag/whistle is called for, it doesn’t happen.
    MLS officiating is bad, but MLS management of officiating and officiating technology is worse.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      You’re missing part of the rule, Bob. They keep the flag down until the play is done, unless it is obvious. Once the goal was scored, the AR raised the flag because the play was done and they thought it was offsides.

  16. Zizouisgod says:

    Anyone else notice when the Union were taking a second half corner and the camera was focused on the players crowding Guzan? Both Glesnes and Lowe were taking turns pinching his stomach/slightly grabbing his jersey. Each time Guzan would yell to the ref, they would stop. It was hilarious to watch as they did it 3-4 times.

    • That was hilarious. Things they teach on the training ground. Can’t imagine being a defender and asked to pinch his stomach, twist his nipple, step on his toes, ect. Really steps up the entertainment value.

  17. Other than the El Brujo antics, this was a solid effort by all. Really grabbed the momentum in those final 20 mins and made the most of it. Second ATL goal was fire. Can’t do anything about it

    • Andy Muenz says:

      My wife suggested Wagner’s goal should be goal of the week (without either of us seeing any other games). I suggested that it wasn’t even the top goal of the game given Atlanta’s second goal.

  18. Really thought it was a good team effort to get back into the game. The subs are impactful, and it’s nice to have a good backup keeper! I’m hoping they can figure out Dre’s groin issue! This is an ongoing issue for him. Maybe have a defender take kicks for a few games. No offense to Semmle. He has been pretty good! I have a possible throw in rule (may have just been the way I did it.) if you hit a defender with a throw in, 3 times in a row, the 3rd one in the back of their head, it’s a yellow! Who knew!

  19. PhangPhanSwoopGritFrank says:

    For the record, Union still undefeated. Who’s defeated? Everyone else except us.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      That’s the way it was from early in the second half of last week’s game. That’s the way it will be after next weekend.

      • But when the Union were down 2-nil it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. So PhangPhan’s post makes a lot of sense.

  20. Maurice Edu pointed out the obvious . the u are a pretty good team but they need one more difference maker on offense to put the at the next level. wishful thinking

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